A common mistake companies make in marketing efforts is positioning their company or product as the hero of the story. You may want to don the cape, drive the Batmobile, and kick the villain's butt (and who could blame you?), but most brands overlook the interests of customers when they focus on themselves.
The harsh reality is that your customers don’t care about your company or products - they only care about how you’ll meet their needs. If you want your customers to buy your products or services, your marketing should revolve around your customer and their challenges.
According to Kapost, only 23% of B2B marketers claim to have a customer-centric marketing strategy versus a channel- or product-centric strategy. Rather than stepping outside the expertise comfort zone of their offerings, these B2B companies would rather stick to what they know and focus all marketing efforts on what they have to offer versus the more important issue of how they can meet the demands and needs of their audience. What they neglect to realize however is that this self-serving strategy minimizes golden opportunities to connect with their target market and buyer personas.
When your customer plays the starring role in your marketing efforts, they feel appreciated and are more likely to download your content, follow you on social media, fill out a contact form, and (you guessed it!) make a purchase. Research has shown that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on the customer. On the same note, McKinsey found that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they have been treated.
But building a customer-centric mindset won’t happen overnight. Before you execute a successful customer-centric marketing strategy, you need to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be truly customer-focused.
What is a customer-centric company?
First things first, what does it even mean to be a customer-centric company? It’s not just about offering exceptional customer service; it also means assisting the customer through every stage of the buyer’s journey, from the awareness and researching stage to the final stages of decision-making and even after their purchase is complete. A customer-centric company educates their customers and helps them make an educated buying decision.
When you commit to customer-centricity, you’re placing the customer at the center of all your decisions and strategic planning. You’re creating a positive customer experience by focusing on their needs more than your profit margins. Your top priority should be making their lives easier by answering their burning questions, providing educational content or suggesting a specific solution once they’ve indicated they’re ready and open for recommendations.
A great example of a customer-centric company is Amazon. Amazon consistently delights their customer base by developing products and making decisions according to their customers’ needs and wants. While customer reviews are on nearly every site nowadays, Amazon was the first to display these reviews. Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, wanted to do more than just sell products; he wanted to “help customers make purchase decisions.”
Another company that demonstrates a customer-centric strategy is Apple. Apple actually models their customer service features after the hospitality industry; think, Genius Bar as the concierge. Apple is constantly on top of meeting their customers’ needs. In fact, they directly answer their customers’ emails; CEO Tim Cook has even claimed to personally answer emails daily. They let their customers know that they are appreciated by going above and beyond standard expectations for customer service.
Companies devoted to customer-centricity are there when customers need them, not only when it’s convenient for them. They provide their customers with information and access to products or accounts 24/7. USAA, for instance, was the first to create an app that would allow their customers to make deposits via their iPhone and also to send updates on account balances via text message. They empower customers to receive timely updates on their finances, and, therefore, improve customer satisfaction.
How do you become a customer-centric company?
1) Identify Your Target Customer
Before you can make the customer the hero of your story, you need to place yourself in their shoes. To do that, you must know whose shoes you’re stepping into. Take a closer look at your existing customer base by sending out surveys or monitoring popular social media platforms.
If your current audience doesn’t precisely represent the market segment who could benefit from your offering, make a note of that and include these opportunistic personas in your target. List out their defining characteristics, such as their location, industry, age, needs, goals, pain points, and motivations.
Once you’ve compiled this information, you can develop buyer personas - or semi-fictional representations of your target customers based on marketing research and real data about your existing customers. These buyer personas will help you create relevant, share-worthy content that speaks to your ideal customers’ needs. When your ideal customers find content covering topics they’re actually interested in, they’re more likely to share it with coworkers and friends, spread the word about your company, and come back for more.
2) Get Everyone Involved
If you want to create a customer-centric culture, you need to have the entire team on board. All of your employees should understand your customers’ exact needs, not just your customer service department. You should provide training, education, and mentoring when employees are initially hired, and then continue to offer guidance and coaching throughout their employment. This helps all team members consider how their work and decisions directly impact the customer and the continuing success of your company.
3) Empower Your Employees
Customer satisfaction and employee morale tend to go hand in hand. According to The Harvard Business Review, contented employees are 31% more productive and generate 37% more sales than their disengaged counterparts.
Before you focus on improving your customer experience, you need to take a long, hard look at your company culture. Your employees need recognition, opportunities for advancement, job security, and thorough training before they can provide excellent customer service. Your employees will become much more engaged and productive when they know their employer cares about their welfare.
4) Allow Participation from Customers
There’s no better way to create a customer-centric culture than allowing your customers to actively participate in your brand’s story or campaign. For example, when the blockbuster movie “The Fault in Our Stars” came out in theaters, the producer Atlantic Records collected more than 3,800 pieces of fan photos over 3 days via #TFIOSencouragements on Instagram. They then compiled these photos in an online gallery where fans could view, share, and vote for their favorites.
In this case, the production team placed their potential customers in the spotlight while also sharing their relevant content. They made their fans and movie ticket buyers feel special, even if only for a moment, and created a positive customer experience.
If you want to get your audience involved in your marketing efforts, your best bet for fast outcomes is to head to the social media channels they frequent. Take the time to monitor their social media posts and pay attention to any mention of your company, your product or dialogue pertaining to the needs addressed by your solutions.
When you find the right content, engage with your audience and ask if you can republish. Also, make your user-generated content programs as easy as possible to participate in - think about using a brand hashtag rather than having customers go to the trouble of submitting a video.
And the Customer Saves the Day...
Setting all of the above practices in motion will allow you to create and execute a successful customer-centric marketing strategy. By taking these proactive steps toward becoming a customer-centric company, you’re showing the customer you’re worth their time. When you realize all the needs, wants, and preferences of your customer and use them to shape your marketing efforts, you are ensuring that all your business decisions revolve around the customer.
When the customer knows you not only take their opinions and concerns into consideration but also that you use them to drive your strategic planning, they are more likely to return to your company for more information and to make a purchase. They will feel appreciated and understood when a product is designed to solve their specific problem, a piece of content answers their questions, and when social media posts speak to their interests.
If you want potential customers to care about you, you have to show you care about them first. Making your customers the center of your brand’s universe will help you develop a loyal following and discover new business opportunities. They’ll be the hero of your marketing strategy, but you’ll know that your company or product made it possible for them to save the day.